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The Rangers showed lots of resilience and heart in toppling the Astros to win the American League pennant.
As a Texas Rangers fan, I wanted my team to make a statement and have an impact this postseason. But this?
Taking down the arch-rival Astros in Game 7, in Houston, to win the pennant?
The Astros owned the Rangers during the regular season, especially during an impactful September series when Houston outscored their in-state rival by scores of 13-6, 14-1 and 12-3.
Those losses left Texas sputtering at three games back in a division the Rangers had led for most of the year.
At the time, the blowouts felt like the moment the season turned to dust. The Rangers were getting pounded, and the Astros were clearly the superior team.
It was over.
But in retrospect, it was the moment that set the stage for the Rangers' playoff magic. It forced the Rangers to make necessary adjustments and taught the team resilience.
Early in the Sept. 6 game, Texas right fielder Adolis Garcia landed awkwardly and grabbed his knee after trying to catch a Michael Brantley home run. I feared the worst— that he'd need surgery and his season was over. Without El Bombi in the lineup ... that was it.
Thankfully, the injury wasn't serious. But with Garcia on the shelf for a little while, the Rangers called up a rookie with only a handful of games at Triple-A, Evan Carter.
At best, I figured Carter would stem the bleeding.
"Full Count" Carter has become a revelation, helping the Rangers down the stretch and adding stability to the lineup during the postseason.
Carter saved Game 1 of the ALCS with a leaping grab of what, off the bat, looked like a sure Alex Bregman home run.
After Houston won three straight games to take a 3-2 ALCS lead, and especially after the emotion-spilling Game 5 loss, the Rangers didn't blink.
They just. Kept. Hitting.
That was the case in the first inning on Monday. After shortstop Corey Seager smashed a home run, Carter and Garcia kept the pressure on Houston pitcher Cristian Javier. Carter walked and stole second, then scored on Garcia's long single off the left field wall.
Garcia promptly stole second and scored, too, helping to bounce the ace, Javier, after he'd only recorded one out.
The outfielders were at it again in the fourth with Texas clinging to a 4-2 lead. Carter came up with the bases loaded against reliever J.P. France. The game was on the line. If Houston stopped the bleeding and got out of trouble, it would have been a huge boost to the 'Stros.
But that's not what happened. Carter plunked the ball just fair down the right field line, scoring two, while Garcia plated two more runners with a single to left. A two-run lead became a six-run lead like that, and the Astros never really threatened the game's outcome again.
And then it was time for the Rangers to hoist a trophy on enemy turf and sing along to Creed.
It's interesting, looking back at the series, to consider the parallels between this year's ALCS and the 2019 World Series between the Astros and Nationals.
In both series, the road teams won each game.
In both series, Game 7 was played in Houston.
In both series, Max Scherzer took the mound for the winning team.
It's notable, too, how "winning" the American League West unintentionally contributed to Houston's undoing.
The Astros and Rangers tied with identical 90-72 records to end the regular season, and the Astros were awarded the division crown due to the better head-to-head record.
Houston got home-field advantage. But Houston has struggled to win at home all season.
In a series where the home team never won, being at home became the ultimate disadvantage.
The Astros got the division title, but the Rangers are playing on for something bigger, the ultimate prize.
And all I keep thinking is wow.